Advances in nanotechnology are leading to dramatic new devices that can fundamentally improve our quality of life in the healthcare field. While the potential applications are easily understood, the truly unique aspect about Dr. Yong Shi’s research is his unparalleled ability to develop and control these materials.
Dr. Yong Shi at the Active Nanomaterials and Devices Lab at Stevens Institute of Technology is a nanotechnology expert who works towards introducing new materials that have unparalleled precision and efficiency. He has introduced patented piezoelectric (PZT) nanofibers consisting of lead zirconate titanate and is also advancing the study of piezoresistive or conductive (indium tin oxide or ITO), thermal electric (both bismuth telluride and complex oxides) and photovoltaic materials (titanium oxide or TiO2).
The applications of these nanofibers are tremendous. What is truly special about these piezoelectric nanofibers is their ability to efficiently convert vibration or acoustic energy into electricity (sensors), or to do the exact opposite – convert electricity into movement (actuators).
Working in the Micro Devices Lab shared facility at Stevens, Dr. Shi was the first to fabricate and control PZT fibers on the nanoscale – a process that results in unique mechanical and electrical properties.
By manipulating these principles, he creates devices that are both tiny (Nanotechnology refers to development on the atomic level – a sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick) and can be maneuvered with precision, thus enabling amazing new technologies such as: tiny robots that navigate to the site of a blood clot in stroke therapy procedures and even monitor the vibrations involved in chemical bonding to detect cancer cells – all made possible through the application of Dr. Shi’s nanofibers and their specification as a sensor or actuator to determine functionality.
Stroke Therapy and the MEMS Umbrella-Shaped Actuator
Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the United States, claiming over 143,000 lives per year. Caused by a blood clot which blocks an artery, or by the breakage of a blood vessel, strokes result in a lack of oxygen, blood, and nutrients to the brain, and can invoke brain damage and even death.
Dr. Shi is particularly interested in assisting stroke victims and has worked collaboratively with Dr. Sundeep Mangla and Dr. Ming Zhang of SUNY Downstate Medical Center in the development of a blood clot retriever using his patented PZT fibers that have unique piezoelectric properties resulting in movement (actuation) as a response to electrical stimuli.
This principle allows for creation of a MEMS Umbrella-shaped Actuator that is inserted via catheter into the lower body of a stroke patient. The operator (in most cases a medical doctor) can control the device through the application of varying electrical signals and the location can be monitored with MRI and CAT SCAN technology. Navigating up and through the arteries, the device will ultimately reach the location of the blood clot and proceed by applying a fine-tuned shear force to facilitate the separation of the blood clot from the wall of the vascular artery due to the shearing-thinning phenomenon, thus enabling complete retrieval while minimizing the risk of damage to the arteries.
As the second leading cause of death in the United States, early detection of cancer is a critical step in recovery. The Active Nanomaterials and Devices Lab aims to distinguish between a cancer cell and a normal cell through the use of high frequency ultrasound. The PZT materials once again play a critical role in their ability to detect vibration patterns and disseminate critical knowledge. By monitoring the absorption and attenuation of the cells using a specific frequency ultrasound, Dr. Shi will be able to distinguish cancer cells from normal cells.
Yong Shi is involved in vital research with Dr. Jian Cao of Stony Brook University which will introduce novel diagnostics that improve existing diagnostic methods resulting in early detection and the ability to save lives. Dr. Shi brings an expert understanding of Nanotechnology device engineering, while Dr. Cao is a leader in molecular and cellular biology of cancer. According to Dr. Cao, this synergistic collaboration will bridge the gap between basic science and translational research.
Their collaboration has led to recent government funding for the development of a device that will be used to detect the spread of breast cancer cells in circulation. This device will eventually be used for clinical diagnostics to determine the possible spread of breast cancer. In addition to improving the medical care for cancer diagnostics, technology innovations led by Dr. Shi and Dr. Cao will drastically reduce medical costs and enable greater care for a larger majority of patients.
As the first to fabricate and control PZT nanofibers as well as introduce further advancements in ITO nanofibers, Dr. Shi has uncovered an incredibly effective method of operating and powering mechanical devices. He does this through the application of an electrical potential, which creates movement (actuators) or receives information based on vibration, thermal or acoustic energy (sensors). This technology is dramatically increasing the efficiency of many groundbreaking disciplines including:
The development of a device that can actually remove a blood clot in the case of a stroke and monitor and diagnose cancer like never before with dramatically reduced costs to the patient.
As an entrepreneur Dr. Shi is also an innovator at bringing technology to the marketplace. He has instilled an environment consistent with the Technogenesis™ mission and encourages the application of research ideas to commercial solutions. One of Dr. Shi’s graduate students, Shi you Xu, explains further, Nanotechnology is currently a ‘hot’ research area, and most of it is on the scientific level. The unique aspect of our lab is Dr. Shi’s willingness to develop working devices that have the potential to be commercialized. We have seen this with nano piezoelectric generators and sensing devices, and are excited about future prototype developments.